A Friend’s Weight, Mom’s Smoking – What They Needed To Hear

A decade ago, one of my childhood friends and I weighed approximately the same – less than 200 lbs (91kg), although he was probably a few pounds lighter than me.  Since that time, he has slowly crept up to the 215 lbs (98 kg) level. He never had a weight issue previously, so I’m sure he was a bit surprised when he saw 215 on the scale that I recently bought for his family.

While he still looks good at 6’3 inches (189cm), he realizes that he needs to lose weight; even admitting in subtle ways that he could use an improvement in his hectic lifestyle.  While some men can carry his current weight effortlessly, it doesn’t suit him well.

This past summer, I spontaneously gave him a goal of 205 lbs (93kg)….to be achieved by July 15, 2018. I’ve never understood why friends and family members dance around the weight issue of people they care about. Why are we so afraid to tell those people who are important in our lives that they need to lose weight, improve their eating habits or get in shape?

I’ve rarely had problems with my weight, yet it has happened on several occasions (a 20lbs/9.1kgs gain) due to lack of proper eating and/or exercise. Those close to me never failed to express how bad I looked…and they were right. With my athletic background, I shouldn’t have been that careless. They would joke with me sometimes about my weight, but were never preachy or malicious about it.  I’m grateful for their concern as it made an impact and helped me in my journey back to health.

The aforementioned friend is one of the most well-rounded, liked and giving individuals I know. He has a good life and loving family, yet not making health and/or weight maintenance a priority can not only make life more stressful for him, but could severely hamper that positive life in the future. In addition, his kids are watching closely and as we all should know as parents, our actions tend to have a bigger impact than our words.

I want him to have the best life possible and he seems to want it as well now, writing this to me recently.

“As for my weight…I lose it overnight. That is not hard for me. I will be under 200 soon.”

He’s clearly optimistic which I love. The ball is in his court. 

I encourage all of you to reach out to those who need an extra push. Don’t shy away from telling people close to you what they need to hear. You don’t want to wait until they are in the hospital or have irreversible health problems before you have the courage to speak up. They may not like to hear what you say, but do it anyway. We should always be upfront and honest with those we love or care about. If it is done in a loving way, they might not appreciate it right away, but will one day.

My mother smoked cigarettes for most of her life; something I didn’t like or approve of. There weren’t 6 months that went by when I didn’t remind her about the ills of smoking. I would send her articles, talk to her and find other avenues to get my message across. Year after year I stayed on message. I knew that my concern wouldn’t be the catalyst for her quitting (only she could do that), but as her only son, I knew it would have an impact. 

My mother never admitted this, but I felt that it was a good friend of hers dying from lung cancer that made her quit. This woman (a smoker) was a healthy and beautiful 50 year old, and after being diagnosed, died within 3 months. My mom quit smoking not long after her death. 

Mom was 55 when she gave up smoking and never looked back. I was thrilled. Because of that decision, along with embracing better eating habits, she was able to live another 22 healthy years. She told me that she appreciated the way I never gave up on warning her about the dangers of smoking.

Some years after she stopped the nicotine, I advised her to adopt a healthier eating style as that time after smoking can be rough with the appetite desires. She fell victim to those desires and her body showed it. I knew she wasn’t happy. 

This time, it didn’t take long for her to change, as she could see herself going down the wrong road. Again, it was her courage to pivot away from poor food choices, although I sensed that I had a big impact on her from the questions she would ask me about food. I was surprised and proud when she wholeheartedly embraced healthier eating habits.

I have no doubt that my friends (and wife) will speak up if they see me becoming unhealthy again. I will let those close to me know if I see their health is going in the wrong direction. Will you do the same for your sister, friend, wife, husband, child or father?

If you do, be gentle and loving in your approach, yet don’t be afraid. Stay firm, committed and keep reminding them that there is nothing more important than their health.

"Happiness lies, first of all in health."
(George Williams Curtis)

Happy Gswede Sunday!